Islanders encouraged to get screened during Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
March is colorectal cancer awareness month and health professionals are urging Islanders to educate themselves about the benefits of early screening for this quiet disease.
Colorectal cancer does not always display obvious symptoms, especially in early stages, but free testing is available to help people recognize when the illness may be developing.
Screening using the FIT (Fecal Immunochemical Test) Kit is recommended every two years for those of average risk who are 50 to 74 years of age. Average risk means no family history of colorectal cancer (parent or sibling) or no symptoms such as change in bowel movements, visible blood in their stool, or excessive vomiting. The test screens stool for signs of blood which can indicate the presence of polyps or cancer cells.
“Testing is simple, can be done in the comfort of your home and takes only a few minutes,” says Minister of Health and Wellness Robert Mitchell. “Anyone can do this test to detect warning signs of cancer and take action while you are still feeling healthy. It’s convenient and free and improves your chances of survival.”
To reduce the chances of developing colorectal cancer:
- Don’t smoke;
- Move more and sit less;
- Limit alcohol;
- Maintain a healthy weight;
- Eat less red and processed meats;
- Eat foods that are high in fibre;
- Eat more vegetables and fruits;
- Stay up-to-date with screening for cancer and other chronic diseases.
“Both men and women are equally likely to develop colon cancer, with the disease becoming more prevalent as we age,” said Anja Nied-Kutterer, Health PEI’s Colorectal Screening Coordinator. “See your doctor or nurse practitioner if you have blood in your stool, or bleeding from your rectum and be sure to learn about your family’s health and cancer history.”
Call 1-888-561-2233 toll free or go to Cancer Care on PEI to request a FIT Kit or to get more information.
Know the symptoms of colorectal cancer:
- Persistent change in bowel habit;
- Change in the stool’s appearance;
- Blood in the stool or rectal bleeding;
- Frequent gas pains or cramps;
- Feeling of fullness or bloating;
- Feeling that the bowel has not emptied completely;
- Unexplained anemia causing tiredness, weakness, or weight loss;
- Rectal or anal pain;
- Lump in the rectum or anus;
- Abdominal pain or swelling.
A FIT test can detect blood in the stool which can be a sign of pre-cancer. FIT can be done in the comfort of a person’s own home by following the instructions provided in the kit. Blood in stool is not always caused by polyps but can be linked to other causes such as hemorrhoids.
If blood is found, then further consult with a doctor or nurse practitioner will determine what follow-up procedures (such as a colonoscopy) are needed.
A person may be of increased risk for colorectal cancer and should consult a health professional if they have a family history of colorectal cancer or have a personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps.
Colorectal cancer is the second-most common cancer in men and women. Every 3 days, an Islander is diagnosed with colorectal cancer. More than half of all colorectal cancer patients survive the disease for five or more years. 94% of colorectal cancer occurs in people 50 years of age or older.